Superman and Lois season 1, episode 13 recap – “Fail Safe”

August 11, 2021
Jonathon Wilson 0
The CW, Weekly TV
3.5

Summary

“Fail Safe” deals with the fallout of Edge’s rampage in a typically human, small-scale way.

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3.5

Summary

“Fail Safe” deals with the fallout of Edge’s rampage in a typically human, small-scale way.

This recap of Superman and Lois season 1, episode 13, “Fail Safe”, contains spoilers.


Most superhero stories are about spectacle – nefarious villains, have-a-go heroes, and superpowered punch-ups that invariably destroy entire buildings at a minimum (sometimes, in the case of Man of Steel, an entire city, and in the case of Avengers: Age of Ultron, an entire country). It’s rare that you get to linger in the devastation left behind, and spend time with characters who have been irrevocably changed by the chaos that fans gobble up so greedily. Superman and Lois might have lost a bit of momentum thanks to its weird release schedule and frequent breaks, but it hasn’t forgotten about Morgan Edge’s rampage, its knock-on effects, and the fact that Leslie Larr is still on the loose.

Superman and Lois season 1, episode 13 recap

Even with Edge locked away in a lead-lined cell in the Department of Defence, his influence is still felt everywhere. Lois is trying to navigate reporting on the story and trying to keep Chrissy on-side, Lana and Kyle have been turned into pariahs thanks to their initial support of Edge, and Clark is still grappling with the potential that Sam Lane’s experiments into how to kill him or people like him might well have been justified.

Since Edge has become a much less interesting villain since the reveal that he was really Superman’s Kryptonian half-brother all along, it’s just as well that “Fail Safe” switches its focus in this way. Edge is sidelined for almost all of it, and Larr only makes a brief appearance. The focus instead is on the normal human characters – and the Kent brothers, obviously – who have to continue to live in Smallville after the dust clears, and show’s character writing is so strong, and the performances are so naturalistic and comfortable, that this can only be a good thing.

It’s particularly interesting to see characters grapple with knowledge they know they shouldn’t have, like Lois, whose instincts as a journalist are in conflict with her loyalty to her husband. Chrissy represents the idealistic reporter at a small paper who’s tired of being overlooked and pushed aside; she’s symbolic of that very specific sense of small-town pride, the refusal to be treated as lesser. Most of Smallville’s residents embody this idea in one way or another, but Chrissy, thanks to her proximity to Lois and Lois’s proximity to Superman, gets to speak for Smallville more directly.

You can see the other side of this argument in Kyle and Lana, who have immediately become scapegoats, despite having done nothing, really, that many other townsfolk didn’t also do. Small towns tend to have a sense of community spirit and togetherness until something goes wrong, in which case there always has to be someone to blame, someone who turned against the long-held ideals and traditions. It’s the age-old idea of the witch hunt but without the layer of misogyny. The finger-pointing is natural, but it’s also deeply unfair, especially for someone like Sarah, who didn’t even have any say in her parents’ decisions in the first place but still has to shoulder the responsibility for them. As if it wasn’t hard enough being a teenage girl in the first place.

You can see another version of this argument in Clark and John Henry Irons. Superman has only ever proved himself to be a hero, and yet it’s hard to imagine that someone like Edge would be remotely interested in a place like Smallville if it wasn’t for Superman. Does Superman attract the evil he fights? Is the idea that he will be corrupted and turned against the world he so loves basically an inevitability? And in that case, is the presence of someone like Irons, or indeed Sam and Project 7734, almost mandatory? That’s Clark’s point of view, anyway. But it leaves Irons in the lurch. His purpose before was to stop Superman from being corrupted, but he hasn’t just done that – he has seen the human side of Superman, seen his family and his values. All of a sudden, it isn’t that easy to believe the worst. Many of the people in Smallville could stand to learn a lot from him.

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